The US must be asking itself what it needs to get a break from the data surveillance scandals of recent months. Just when it seemed that things might be under control for the time being, a new report out of Europe has surfaced. Looks like the US may still be in hot water over data surveillance practices.
Germany and France have been in discussions with a view to building a European data network. The goal of such a transcontinental network is to keep data secure from US spying. The subject is especially touchy when even Angela Merkel’s cell phone was reportedly monitored by US agencies. If agencies such as the NSA would stoop to such measures against a head of state, what chance does the average citizen have. At least that’s the prevailing narrative for now.
In its annual review of telecommunication trade barriers, the U.S. Trade Representatives scoffed at efforts to impose obstacles to international data barriers. To be sure, it is an area of great and growing concern for the US and its business community. As expected, last week the United States criticized the proposals to build a European communications network to avoid emails and other data passing through the U.S. It warned that such a change in the law could run counter to existing international trade laws.
The US Trade Representative said in its report that the creation of such a network, which has been dubbed the Schengen Cloud by proponents, could negatively affect relations among countries and harm the business community. The e-commerce marketplace is estimated to be as large as $8 trillion per year. The US tech companies are leaders. They are urging the White House to reform its practices as they pertain to privacy concerns. Their aim- to fend off digital protectionism. The USTR said proposals by Germany’s state-backed Deutsche Telecom to bypass the United States were ’draconian’. Moreover, they were likely to give European companies an advantage over their US rivals.
DT has proposed legislation targeting US abuses. It suggests, instead, that data travelling within continental Europe not be routed through Asia or the United States. It further favors the scrapping of the Safe Harbor agreement that allows US companies access to European data. This is even if they have heretofore demonstrated European-level privacy standards. For its part, the USTR said that they will closely monitor any attempts to create mandatory intra-Eu data routing protocols.
This is the first salvo in what may be a drawn out battle. Given the $8 trillion dollar marketplace, much is at stake. It’s just another chapter in the on-going saga which began with the leaks by Edward Snowden. It’s not likely to be the last. Stay tuned for the latest installment.